Building new skills
Cecil Stations promote early literacy at libraries
— Libraries have historically been places of hushed voices and quiet concentration, but some county libraries have recently begun encouraging families to do exactly the opposite.
Several library branches
in Cecil County now have designated spaces where families can laugh, play and talk together — all in the spirit of promoting kindergarten readiness and early literacy skills.
Called Cecil Stations, these areas provide activities such as dress-up, Legos, toy table settings and food, a magnetic boards and iPads with educational apps geared toward families with children 5 years old and younger,
said Rachel Wright, Cecil County Public Library children’s services librarian.
“We wanted to be intentional about planning activities so that families can learn together and play together,” she said. “It’s really about families engaging together at the library and having fun.”
The most recent Cecil Station was added at the Rising Sun branch when it reopened after renovations last month, but the Chesapeake City, North East and Cecilton branches also have the stations. CCPL also hopes to create a Cecil Station at the Port Deposit branch in the near future, Wright said.
All the activities in these areas encourage five early literacy practices — talk, sing, read, write and play — as outlined by the American Library Association’s Every Child Ready to Read initiative, Wright said.
At the Rising Sun Library, a separate room at the back of the building is devoted to children’s books as well as the various Cecil Stations. Next to a long bench along the wall are a Lego table and a table with color-coded placemats and toy food. Next to the tables is a magnet board and toward the back are dress-up costumes and two iPads with an array of educational apps. At each of the stations, placards sug- gest ways parents can use the activities to encourage early literacy skills.
As her 3-year-old granddaughter, Riley Fielder, played with the Legos, Barbara Bryant said this is the second time the two have used the Cecil Stations and that Fielder’s favorite station is the dress-up costumes.
“Riley loves to pretend,” said Bryant, who lives in Rising Sun. “She always likes to be the mailman.”
Lauren Kibler, of Rising Sun, was also making use of the library’s stations for the second time as she and her daughter Isabel, 2, played with the table settings and toy food.
“It’s very nice, she really enjoys it,” she said. “She loves to play with food at home so this is awesome.”
Although having fun is an essential element of all the activities, another goal of the stations is to address the “word gap” that often exists for children from lower income families. Research has found that by age 3, children from these families heard roughly 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers. This in turn translates into an even wider achievement gap between these two groups and can mean that many kids are already behind before they even start kindergarten, said Frazier Walker, CCPL community relations specialist.
Although this trend has primarily been observed in kids from low income families, Walker noted that the increase in the number of screen children interact with at an early age — such as phones, iPads, computers and televisions — can mean that even children from more affluent families are hearing fewer words and interacting less with their parents.
By setting up the Cecil Stations in the library branches, Wright said she hopes parents will have an opportunity to have constructive playtime with their kids that they might not always get on a daily basis.
“We find that this is a destination to play and to learn,” she said. “It gives families and parents an excuse to not to be distracted by things at home.”
Lauren Kibler and her daughter Isabel, 2, play with toy food at one of the Cecil Stations at the Rising Sun Library.
Taiyo Paris, 4, of Rising Sun plays with Legos at one of the Cecil Stations at the Rising Sun Library.